LEAVE moves into lead for 1st time in ICM’s EURef tracker

February 10th, 2016

Cameron European

Cameron’s “deal” not going down well

After a stormy week during which he’s come under sustained attack from the papers that were so supportive last May the latest ICM EURef poll has LEAVE taking the lead for the first time. The figures are.

LEAVE 42+3

This is just one point and a lot narrower than the 9% LEAVE lead that YouGov recently reported but it does reinforce that the general direction is to BREXIT.

Of course these were online polls which have tended to be much more pro BREXIT than the phone surveys but the trend is the same.

As I observed last week the EU Referendum looks set to come down to Cameron versus the Tory press.

Mike Smithson


The GOP nomination race is effectively now down to just 5

February 10th, 2016


Iowa and New Hampshire have slimmed the GOP field down

What a night and what an outcome. The contender who was deemed to have “won” the last debate, Chris Christie failed to make an impact in NH and returned to New Jersey to consider his position.

Given that Christie’s final act had been his debate destruction of Rubio only a few days ago it seemed that others benefited from him taking down the one who became favourite after Iowa. Maybe on reflection Christie should have used his powerful destructive tools to attack Trump. He didn’t.

This trims the field down to five with the previous long term favourite, Jeb Bush, still there and seeing a fair amount of betting on him. Before the Trump surge he was an odds on favourite and seemed to be the one who suffered most by the entry of the property billionaire turned TV star into the race.

Kasich’s strong showing overnight keeps him in the race and so the battle is now between the five of them.

Mike Smithson


Trump and Sanders heading for big wins in New Hampshire

February 10th, 2016

CNN   Breaking News  U.S.  World  Weather  Entertainment   Video News (1)


If Trump fails to win tonight then his bid will effectively be over

February 9th, 2016


If Hillary can keep the gap in single figures she claim to be the “comeback kid”

As we saw after last week’s Iowa caucuses this stage in the White House race everything is all about expectations. So although Cruz won last week all the attention went on Rubio who did a fair bit better than expected.

Trump, quite remarkably, has led led in every single New Hampshire poll  since June – all  75 of them. He went into today’s New Hampshire primary with a 17% RCP polling average lead and needs a clear victory that reflects the perception that he’s the front runner. If by any chance he doesn’t make it people would question his ongoing national poll leads as well as the mountain of surveys from other states.  At least in Iowa last week he hadn’t been the leader in the polls.

Likewise Socialist 74 year old, Bernie Sanders, has to have an emphatic victory. He’s gone for a total of 40 polls all showing him in the lead and the Real Clear Politics Average currently has him 13.65 ahead. If Hillary comes in with the gap in single figures then her team will be claiming some sort of victory.

One factor about Sanders is that he’s a senator from Vermont and New Hampshire has a record of giving good support to contenders from neighbouring states.

If you are staying up have a good evening.  If it is not as clear cut as the polls we could have an exciting few hours.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks says that he EU is not as central an issue as many right wing activists think it is

February 9th, 2016


A look at the referendum’s salience

Last Monday, UKIP wandered into another of their controversies over gay rights.  Alan Craig, who has in the past called equality campaigners the Gaystapo and described gay marriage as being as bad as the Nazi invasion of Poland, has been selected as a candidate for the London Assembly.  Most UKIP supporters are frustrated by the fuss.  They don’t believe in a relationship between sexuality and meteorology but really don’t see the views of some of their number about gay rights as an important matter when it comes to deciding how to vote.  Hold that thought.

Many of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters sigh at the amount of attention gets given to his contacts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.  Beyond a general wish to see peace established, they are not particularly exercised by the complexities of the factions or the unsavoury views of some of these people.  They are much more interested in the social justice that he stands for.  Why bother about something relatively peripheral?  Hold that thought too.

Let’s turn to the question of the referendum on the EU.  For many of the politically committed, particularly in the Leave camp, this is the paramount question of the day.  Everything is viewed through this prism.  Members of the public who have yet firmly to make up their minds about the referendum are implicitly considered ignorant.  Politicians who have yet to commit themselves publicly are regarded as duplicitous.  How could anyone not see this as being of vital importance?

Now, return to the two held thoughts.  It should not be a revelation, but apparently it is: different people place different degrees of importance on different matters.  Some people regard respect for other people’s sexuality as of prime importance.  Some people regard it as vital not to associate with those who could be seen as terrorists or anti-Semites.  For that matter, some people regard restricting abortion rights as being of touchstone importance and find the contrary view as being not just unfathomable but wicked.

What of the EU?  Well, here we have a lot of evidence of just how important the average voter thinks it is, courtesy of the long-running Ipsos MORI monthly issues poll.  And as you can see from the table at the top of the thread, it’s hardly a burning concern.  When respondents are asked to name up to three important issues facing the country, concern about the EU hasn’t registered with more than 20% of the electorate in more than 10 years.

You sometimes hear diehard Leavers argue that when respondents name immigration as an issue it’s a proxy for the EU.  There are two problems with that.  First, respondents would be quite capable of naming the EU if that’s what they meant.  And secondly, there is no obvious correlation between the salience as an issue over time of immigration and the EU.

So it’s hard to escape the conclusion that most voters just don’t see the EU as the central subject that many right wing political activists do.

Once that is understood, the actions of those politicians who treat the subject as one to be politicked with also become readily understood.  They’re not being immoral or dishonest, simply acting logically in order to promote subjects of much greater centrality to their political ideology.  Much has been written about Michael Gove apparently agonising about his intellectual belief that Britain should leave the EU and his loyalty to the Cameroon project.  Leavers are outraged that he has anything to consider here.  But if he genuinely believes that the Cameroon project is more important, why would he not swallow his principles on EU membership in order to do his best to protect it?

So for those that do care passionately about the EU, how should they respond?  First, banging on about the EU isn’t going to change many votes.  The target-rich environments are the voters who see other subjects as more salient.  So this week we have seen David Cameron painting lurid pictures of the Garden of England converted into a Hogarthian slum by migrants if we leave the EU.  Leave, of course, have been majoring on the numbers of foreigners coming to Britain for ages.  Expect risks to the economy to be conjured up, existential threats to the NHS and increased terrorist dangers to be bandied about.

None of it will really have all that much to do with the pros and cons of EU membership – the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers from outside the EU, for example, has only a tangential connection with EU membership and in any case at present is operating largely outside the nominal EU rules that have some relevance to such matters.  It won’t stop a lot of people who really should know better huffing and puffing about it at inordinate length.

I expect I’m supposed to sigh and look severely at the poor quality of political discourse in the referendum.  But I don’t.  If you believe that membership of the EU is a fundamental matter, this will be disappointing.  But if you believe that the question of EU membership is about the best means to an end, this focus on other issues that the voters believe are more important is extremely heartening.  So the question now is which side has the more persuasive arguments about these bread and butter subjects.  And which side can most resist talking about qualified majority voting and Eurozone consolidation.

Alastair Meeks



With Rubio faltering John Kasich could be the favoured non-Trump GOP contender in today’s New Hampshire primary

February 9th, 2016

John Kasich for America   John Kasich

It’s primary election day in New Hampshire – the first full one of the 2016 campaign and the big developments over the past 24 hours have been on the Governor of Ohio John Kasich.

He made an early decision to focus all his early effort on New Hampshire and judging by the polling has been having a big impact. He was running neck and neck with Rubio to be the main GOP alternative to Trump and that looks set to be even more the case. The talk out of his camp that he could secure second place.

What makes New Hampshire so difficult to call, as is being repeatedly said, is that it has a history of independents and supporters of other parties switching on the day not just to different candidate but to which primary they cast their votes in.

One scenario that’s being discussed is that in order to impede Trump there could be cross-overs to the GOP election the only question being which of the contenders is perceived to be in the best position.

This could impact on the Democratic primary where Bernie Sanders looks solid. Some of his supporters might feel that it is safe switch to the GOP election and Kasich could well be their choice.

Ladbrokes make him favourite to be the leading non-Trump contender in the state.

Mike Smithson


On the eve of New Hampshire the Hillary campaign takes its biggest gamble: bringing in Bill to attack Bernie

February 8th, 2016

Does the former President still hold much sway?

So we are almost there in what has in past White House races been the contest that has proved to be the most crucial – the first full primary in the New England State of New Hampshire.

While much of the attention has been on the Republicans there’s a battle royal going on in the Democratic primary where the 74 year old socialist Bernie Sanders has been enjoying double digit leads over Hillary Clinton.

On paper he looks a certainty but the Hillary campaign will remember 2008 when the final polls on the state had Obama up to 13.5% up but she won.

A big factor that makes it very challenging for the pollsters is that voters, including a huge block of independents, can choose whether to caste their votes in with the Democratic election or the Republican one.

There’s a long history of primary voters there making their minds up at the last minute.

Into this potentially explosive mix the Hillary campaign has deployed its final card which could backfire – her husband the former President. His speech attacked in part the sexist and misogynist nature of the Tweets from Sanders supporters – a move designed to boost to boost turnout amongst women.

The Twitter misogyny from some Sanders backers looks very similar to that which we saw from Corbyn supporters in the Labour leadership contest.

Whatever the Sanders polling numbers are strong and it is hard to see him not doing it. The big question will be the size of his winning margin.

Mike Smithson


For their own good, it can be argued, young people should be compelled to vote

February 8th, 2016

Donald Brind on cumpulsory voting

Eddie Izzard writes his own jokes. He made that very clear when I offered him what I thought was a good line he could use in pressing young people to get out and vote. “Vote and you get stuff, don’t vote and you get stuffed.”

I was touring North London marginals with the Labour-supporting comedian and Eddie was a bit sniffy about my offering. It cut no ice when I pointed out that the author of the aphorism was the young, supersmart editor of the New Statesman Staggers blog Stephen Bush.

I was reminded of the exchange by Mike’s posting last week on the political implications of the greater propensity of older people to vote – and thereby to be given “stuff” by the Tories – a variety of benefits for pensioners are locked into the system while the you are hit by cuts in housing and , unemployment benefits and maintenance grants.

Getting young people to actually use their vote was a major preoccupation of Labour campaigners – including Eddie Izzard and leader Ed Miliband. Remember his dalliance with another comedian Russell Brand?

In the runup to the election I was reporting for The Week and I posted a piece discussing the idea of compulsory voting, as a way of involving young people. . I noted that in Australia, where registering to vote and going to the polls have been legal duties since 1924, turnout in the 2013 general election was 93%.

What I found particularly striking back in January 2015 was that two influential columnists on the activists website Conservative Home were saying nice things about a private members Bill presented by the veteran Left wing Labour MP David Winnick. It proposed a law on the Australian model.

Tim Montgomerie founder of Conservative Home and a Times columnist was clearly surprised to find himself backing the idea. He told Times readers “I’m not comfortable recommending any kind of compulsion. But I’m much more uncomfortable at the prospect of Britain becoming some sort of gerontocracy where older (and richer) people decide who is in power. This is a much greater social evil.”

Montgomerie argues that “A skewed electorate produces skewed public policy.” Older people are more likely to vote so parties woo them. “That’s one big reason why austerity has fallen so disproportionately on younger people with families.” He cited housing and benefits as examples where older people got a better deal from the Chancellor George Osborne.

Another Con Home writer Peter Hoskin was clearly uncomfortable about supporting Montgomerie.  “There’s something weird and un-British about the idea of compulsory voting, isn’t there?” But he was impressed by arguments in a report by the Left think-tank IPPR Divided Democracy which showed there was is a gap of more than 20 per cent between turnout figures for 18-24 year olds and the national average. “Unsurprisingly, it’s voters over 40, and particularly over 65, who push that average up,” says Hoskin.

Hoskin came down in favour of IPPR’s suggested half way house “that voting be made compulsory, at pain of a fine, for first-time voters only. This makes sense because voting is what they call “habit forming”; once people pop to the ballot box they just can’t stop.”

Labour’s prescription is votes at 16 strongly advocated by the London Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. He told the Independent it was part of a package to make voting easier for the young with polling stations should be set up in secondary schools, on-the-day voting registration and perhaps online polling.  “Why do elections take place on a Thursday? Why do you have to go to a cold church hall to cast your vote? Why can’t you vote by the web? Why can’t you have same-day registration? You can get a mortgage in a day – why can’t you do the same with voting registration? If the concern is fraud, we can address that.”

Khan says “If you speak candidly to a campaign manager of any of the mainstream parties they will say that they concentrate their energies disproportionately on those they know are going to vote,” he said.

The arguments are very similar to those of Montgomerie who argues that compulsory voting is really all about forcing politicians to reach beyond their comfort zones. “It’s a 20-minute burden for voters once every four or five years but it would compel our politicians to change in fundamental ways and to build much broader voting coalitions.”

Making the political parties find a way to appeal to the 16 million people who did not vote “could have a profound effect on British politics.” He adds there would need to be strict caps on political donations “so that the rich and organised cannot find back-door ways to reassert their disproportionate influence.”

Is George Osborne listening? Almost certainly not. Montgomerie is a supporter of the social justice movement in the Conservative Party. He thinks Osborne is a flop, as he makes clear in a recent must-read dissection of the Chancellor’s record on Capx.  The disdain is probably mutual.

Donald Brind